AbstractsPhilosophy & Theology

Christianity Under Fire: An Analysis of the Treatment of Religion in Three Novels by Bernard Cornwell

by Kjartan Birgir Kjartansson 1992

Institution: University of Iceland
Year: 2015
Keywords: Enska
Record ID: 1221121
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/1946/21491


This essay discusses the various different ways Christianity affects relations between different characters as well as political and historical events in three historical novels by Bernard Cornwell. Christianity had a large part to play in medieval societies and was often the source of many conflicts, especially in the British Isles. The three novels covered in the essay take place during different periods of time in the medieval history of England, that is, the Arthurian period in The Winter King, the Viking invasions by the Pagan Danes in The Last Kingdom and the high-medieval period in Harlequin. The essay discusses both the historical background of each novel and how these novels depict the Church as it was during the period in question, as well as the Christian and non-Christian characters and religions in general. Furthermore, this essay discusses the troubling youth and life of Bernard Cornwell and how he has admitted to be prejudiced against all religions. Christianity is a religion which Cornwell treats with special contempt, especially when the faith is contrasted with the pagan or otherwise non-Christian faiths in his novels. The medieval Christians in these novels are extremely prejudiced towards their non-Christian counterparts, their adversaries in warfare, whether Christian or not, and even women, who are treated more badly than non-Christian women. Additionally, the Christians are usually seen as more corrupt, lazy, unjust, hypocritical, arrogant and bigoted than others. The Christian characters, especially the members of the clergy, are frequently seen occupying the role of the villain, the coward or the traitor. This is often contrasted with the less religious or pagan characters that are usually depicted as heroic, kind and just. The bigotry, misogyny, hypocrisy and religious fundamentalism of the Christian characters is a central theme in The Winter King, The Last Kingdom and Harlequin.